Be generous when Scouts come to call

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Twenty five years ago, an idea was born in McCook which has since helped thousands of people in Southwest Nebraska and parts of Northwest Kansas.

That idea -- the McCook Pantry -- was developed by the Red Willow County Ministerial Association as a means of responding efficiently to the food needs of families during times of crisis.

With the help of dedicated volunteers, the pantry has grown to the point that it served 6,477 members of 2,142 families in the past year.

"The need is great," said Dorothy Henton, who has acted as coordinator since the pantry program was established in 1980. "People come from all around," she said. The food recipients, who are allowed one visit per month, come from as far away as Oxford and Imperial, as well as communities in Kansas.

Volunteers are touched by the need which brings people to the pantry. This is not only true for families, but, in recent years, for increasing numbers of elderly people.

One of the nicest things about the McCook Pantry is that it is supported and staffed by volunteers from McCook and the surrounding area. In addition to Mrs. Henton, those who serve in regular capacities are Ivan Hunt, the treasurer, and Merlin Smith, the volunteer coordinator. There is also a group of volunteers who take turns staffing the pantry, which is located at the Canterbury House south of St. Alban's Episcopal Church.

The pantry is open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. "We have two to three volunteers on duty each afternoon," Mrs. Henton said

Community contributions to the pantry will reach their peak this weekend when Boy Scouts go door-to-door in McCook to collect gifts of food. The Scouts will be out Friday to hang collection bags on door handles, then will be back Saturday to collect the contributions.

The giving has already begun. Throughout the week, Jim Hamill and Peggy Been have been receiving donations at the McCook National Bank. "Up to this point," Hamill said Tuesday, "we have received $3,090 in food and monetary gifts for the pantry."

But much more is needed. "We received more than 10,000 pounds of food contributions last year, and are hoping for that same level of giving this year," Mrs. Henton said.

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